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Health exchange bill suggested for study

Last modified: 5/2/2012 12:00:00 AM
Senate lawmakers balked yesterday at House-approved bills that would prevent the state from setting up a federally mandated health insurance exchange and lend support to Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 2-1 to recommend further study of House Bill 1297, which prohibits the state from setting up a health care exchange as required by the Obama administration's health care reform law. Sen. Tom De Blois, the Manchester Republican who cast the lone vote in favor of passing the bill, described interim study as "a polite way to kill" the bill.

Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn of Henniker, who voted with Republican Sen. Russell Prescott of Kingston in the majority, said he believes in local control. If New Hampshire refuses to create an exchange, the federal government will step in to set it up.

The bill "will prohibit the New Hampshire Legislature, in my opinion, from operating solely in the interest of the citizens of the state of New Hampshire," Sanborn said. The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Andrew Manuse of Derry, argues if the state sets up the exchange instead of the federal government, the exchange will eventually cost New Hampshire upwards of $10 million a year to operate.

Sanborn and Prescott said if the full Senate votes to put the bill into interim study, it allows the Legislature to revisit the legislation pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court decision later this year on the constitutionality of the health care law. Right now, Sanborn said, the bill is "essentially providing an answer for a question that hasn't been asked yet."

"It's premature to draw any lines about what we do to the future of the Affordable Care Act," Prescott said. "(House Bill) 1297 was trying to make decisions earlier than I think is needed."

Prescott also voted yesterday against a House resolution that voiced support for an Arizona immigration law that requires non-citizens to carry immigration documents and gives the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. The most controversial provisions of the law were blocked from taking effect in 2010 by a federal court injunction.

The 2-1 vote by the Senate Internal Affairs Committee recommends the resolution be killed by the full Senate, Prescott said. Prescott said he doesn't feel it is an appropriate message to the state's immigrant population to pass a "possible racial profiling endorsement."

"We do not have that immigration problem," Prescott said. "I didn't feel that endorsing Arizona's law from New Hampshire is the proper way of having good relations with our immigration population."

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @mattspolar.)


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